Austin v. Univ. of Or., Case No. 6:15-cv-02257-MC (Lead Case)

Decision Date08 September 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 6:15-cv-02257-MC (Lead Case), Case No. 6:16-cv-00647-MC (Member Case)
Citation205 F.Supp.3d 1214
Parties Brandon AUSTIN, Plaintiff, v. UNIVERSITY OF OREGON; Sandy Weintraub; Chicora Martin; Robin Holmes ; and Michael R. Gottfredson, all in their individual capacities only, Defendants. Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, Plaintiffs, v. University of Oregon; Sandy Weintraub; Chicora Martin; Robin Holmes ; and Michael R. Gottfredson, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Oregon

Alex B. Spiro, Brafman & Associates, P.C., New York, NY, Brian L. Michaels, Eugene, OR, for Plaintiffs.

Michelle B. Smigel, J. Michael Porter, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP, Portland, OR, for Defendants.



Plaintiffs Brandon Austin, Dominic Artis, and Damyean Dotson, were student athletes at the University of Oregon. Following allegations that the three sexually assaulted a female student, the University conducted an investigation and held administrative hearings to determine whether Plaintiffs violated the University of Oregon's Student Conduct Code. Upon finding that Plaintiffs violated the Code, the University issued lengthy suspensions and opted not to renew Plaintiffs' athletic scholarships. Plaintiffs claim that (1) the individually named Defendants violated their due process rights under the 14th Amendment and are therefore liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ; (2) the University of Oregon violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C, et seq.(Title IX) by discriminating against them on the basis of their gender; and (3) all Defendants committed various state law torts against them, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with economic relations, and breach of contract.

This Court is now asked to consider whether Plaintiffs have stated cognizable claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Because the individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and because the University afforded the Plaintiffs appropriate process without regard to gender, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.


Plaintiffs Brandon Austin, Dominic Artis, and Damyean Dotson are former students at the University of Oregon ("University"), PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 4, ECF No. 12; Pl. Artis' Compl., ¶ 2, ECF No. 1–1, where they played NCAA Division I men's basketball, PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 14, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl, ¶ 11, ECF No. 1–1. In March 2014, a female student made allegedly false accusations that the three basketball players sexually assaulted her at a party and later at an apartment, PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 18, 33, ECF No. 12. Plaintiffs allege that, in responding to these accusations, the University deprived them of due process, equal protection, and other rights guaranteed by Title IX based upon their sex/gender. Id. at ¶ 64; PI. Artis' Compl, ¶ 34, ECF No. 1–1. The named defendants, in addition to the University itself, include the Director of Student Conduct & Community Standards Sandy Weintraub, Assistant Dean of Students Chicora Martin, Vice President for Student Life Robin Holmes, and President Michael R. Gottfredson. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 4–9, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 5–9, ECF No. 1–1.

The Plaintiffs' version of the incident describes a consensual sexual encounter between the three men and their accuser. Austin alleges that the female student approached him and another basketball player at a party and began to "twerk" for them. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 19, ECF No. 12. The three then entered a bathroom together where they participated in consensual sexual activity. Id. at ¶ 20. After they left the bathroom, a third player that the female recognized approached them. Id. at ¶ 21. All four then returned to the bathroom where the female performed various sexual acts with the basketball players and initiated oral sex on Austin. Id. at ¶ 22; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 15, ECF No. 1–1. Plaintiffs claim that numerous witnesses saw the female student interacting with the basketball players before and after the sexual activity and that they would have testified that she gave no indication that she was upset or had been sexually assaulted. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 23, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 16, ECF No. 1–1.

Later that evening, the female went with all three Plaintiffs to one of their apartments, where she took her clothes off and engaged in group sexual activity. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 24–26, ECF No. 12. Austin claims that when she became teary-eyed they ceased sexual activity and that she was laughing and joking again soon after. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiffs also allege that the female chose to stay overnight, had intercourse with one of the basketball players the next morning, took a cab home that the player had called, and texted the player to thank him for getting her home. Id. at ¶ 28; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 17–19, ECF No. 1–1. Plaintiffs allege that the female did not appear to be intoxicated nor did she say no to any of the sexual activity at any point. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 30–31, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 20–21, ECF No. 1–1. Plaintiffs claim that she expressed verbal consent and/or physical indications of her desire to participate in sexual activity with them while they were engaged in such conduct. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 32, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 22, ECF No. 1–1.

A day or two later, the female began making what Plaintiffs allege were false accusations that they dragged her into the bathroom, assaulted her, wrestled her into a car, forced her to get drunk, drove her to the apartment, and raped her. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 33, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 23, ECF No. 1–1. The female then made inconsistent statements to police regarding her sobriety, the events and conversations of the party, and the basketball players' actions, words, and behavior during the sexual activity. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 34, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 24, ECF No. 1–1.

On a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider, in addition to the complaint, materials incorporated into the complaint or matters of public record. Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg , 593 F.3d 1031, 1038 (9th Cir.2010). The police report prepared by the Eugene Police Department, ECF No. 21-1, is both a public record and is relied upon factually in the Second Amended Complaint. See ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 39, 41, 79. The police report includes both an extensive interview with the female as well as a summary of the phone conversations between the female and the Plaintiffs following the incident. Those recordings were submitted by the female to the Eugene Police Department following the investigating officer's request. Id. at 16. In those conversations, the Plaintiffs attested to the fact that the female "started crying during sex" and that was "the first time any of them knew she did not want to continue." Id. One of the Plaintiffs stated that he "regretted the situation, and could understand why she felt like she was taken advantage of, given what she remembered of the situation." Id. The report includes one of the Plaintiffs admitting to feeling that he did something wrong. Id. at 17. Another Plaintiff admits that "he was sorry, and said what he did was very inappropriate, and again mentioned he would not want anyone to do that to his mom or sister" and that "he had never done anything like this before, and would never do it again." Id. at 18. The same Plaintiff stated that the incident "was an experience no one should have to [go] through, and called it a lesson learned for him." Id.

Ultimately, the Lane County District Attorney decided not to press charges against Plaintiffs due to the victim's conflicting statements and actions, PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 37, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 25, ECF No. 1–1, and "insurmountable" barriers to prosecution, PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 39, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 27, ECF No. 1–1. Despite the lack of criminal prosecution, President Gottfredson condemned Plaintiffs actions at a press conference prior to the University's separate hearing process, calling the female a "survivor" and stating that Austin in particular would not play basketball at the University again. PI. Austin's Compl., ¶ 40, ECF No. 12; PI. Artis' Compl., ¶ 28, ECF No. 1–1.

The University presented Plaintiffs with notice of their alleged Student Conduct Code violations and provided a Special Choice of Resolution Form, ECF No. 20-3, which described the options of hearings that were available to them: specifically, a special administrative conference or a panel hearing. Decl. of Lisa Thornton, Ex. C, 2, ECF No. 20-3.2 The administrative conference option allowed a right to an immediate hearing, no right to appeal, and no right to have the accuser at the conference. Id. The panel hearing option allowed a mixed panel of students, staff, and faculty, a delay time of 21–30 weeks, a full range of sanctions, the right to appeal, the presence of an advisor, and allowed cross-examination. Id. ; Id. Ex. F, 4.

Plaintiffs, with advice of counsel, ultimately chose the administrative conference option, partly because expulsion was removed as a possible sanction. ECF No. 20-3 at 2 (Lead case); ECF No. 13-3 at 3 (Member case). They claim that the University deprived them of their rights at the conference by failing to provide them with the opportunity to respond or call relevant and necessary witnesses. Id. at ¶ 55, 56; PL Artis' Compl., ¶ 34, ECF No. 1–1. Following the administrative conference, defendant Weintraub ruled against Plaintiffs, finding that they had engaged in sexual misconduct as defined by the Student Conduct Code. They were suspended for four to ten years, effectively expelling them from the University. PL Austin's Compl., ¶ 57, ECF No. 12; PL Artis' Compl., ¶ 37, ECF No. 1–1. Defendant Holmes allegedly refused to respond to Plaintiffs' request for an appeal and ignored their counsels' attempts to reach her. Pl. Austin's Compl., ¶ 59, ECF No. 12;...

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